It may be unChristian-like to some, but people in our Parish, and even Marikina in general, have looked forward to Holy Week every year for the past 6 years or so due to a certain controversy.

Our Parish is noted for its Holy Week processions on Holy Wednesday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.  It’s a big thing, especially for the saint owners.  They adorn their carozas (wheeled elevated platforms decorated with lights and flowers and used as the saint’s pedestal) with the best flowers and put the most beautiful dresses on their saints.  Some owners even feed the people who join the procession behind their caroza afterwards.  This is what I don’t get.  Holy Week is a time for prayer and sacrifice, and joining the procession is a form of that.  The eating that follows afterwards seem more like a celebration, more fit for Easter.  A lot of Marikeño families are also guilty of this – our own family included.  The Good Friday procession has become some sort of reason to have a family reunion.  Filipinos indeed jump at the chance to gather the clan together.  Granted, we don’t have meat on the menu, but our table is filled with variations of seafood and vegetables, some even with fancy recipes.

Back to the controversy.  A previous Parish Priest made the decision to be really biblical about the procession.  Meaning, not all saints get to be in the procession on all three days.  For example, the Good Friday one is a burial procession so the only carozas involved should be those of saints present at, and scenes depicting Jesus’ death and burial.  No St. Veronica, Last Supper, Agony in the Garden, etc.  All the other carozas depicting Jesus’ life, passion and suffering get their turn on Holy Wednesday only.  This same rule applies to the Easter procession.  Only those involved in Jesus’ resurrection should be included.  Makes perfect sense and is biblically accurate, right?  Tell that to the saint owners.  They didn’t take that sitting down.  There was even a year when they held a rally/motorcade demanding the ouster or resignation of the Parish Priest.  Their main reason for disagreeing with the new system?  They spend so much money, time and effort in preparing their carozas so they better get to display them more than just once!  It makes me wonder why these people had these saint icons and carozas made in the first place.  Did they think they could buy their way into heaven?  The time of Indulgences is long gone, and it’s something that should never have been instated in the first place.  Makes you think, which is worse, an unrepentant sinner or one who tries to buy favors from heaven?  I think I’d rather have the unrepentant sinner.

Due to the stubbornness of these people, we have been witness to two different processions these past few years.  One sanctioned by the Parish, and another composed of the die-hard opposers, led by a former Councilor.  And no, it’s not as cordial and conflict-free as you may think.  This year, we’re all looking forward to it again.  There are rumors that the new Parish Priest may have succeeded where his predecessors failed –  to get all the saint owners to cooperate and finally have just one procession on the scheduled days.

It’s all petty, we just laugh about it, and feel a little guilty for anticipating controversy during Holy Week.  But it begs the question of what all the Catholic rites and traditions mean.  Filipinos love to participate in traditions, but are we still doing so because we appreciate its meaning and it strengthens our faith, or just because we are so used to it?  Naka-gawian na, as we say.  My cousin once said that her Holy Week is not complete without watching our Parish’s procession.  Has it come to just that for most of us?  Do we still know what we are doing, does our participation still equal our faith, and is it still manifested in our actions?  Sometimes we just get lost and stay embedded in the familiarity and comfort of rituals and traditions.